Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone! It's not a day for a New Year walk here in Manchester: it's wild and wet and dark, even in late morning, so I'm sitting here by the fire and taking stock of the year that's just gone.

It's been a year in which I'm afraid my blogs have been somewhat neglected, especially my other
blog Fictionbitch, which, as a critical blog, takes a fair amount of thought and time. Mainly this is because it's been an eventful year for me on the family front, with lots of family issues to occupy me, some joyful, such as my discovery of my long-lost Irish cousin and her family, and others, like my mother's house move, pretty stressful, as is the way with these family matters. Partly it's been because I spent most of the spring and summer in Wales without broadband, coupled with the fact that my laptop is basically dying and very slow, so for a lot of the time getting online was impossible. One of my New Year resolutions has to be to get a new laptop, although I have to say that, as income for writers goes down and down and we are expected to contribute more and more for free, I can't really afford one. Reinstalling the operating system has made little difference, and the thing is basically on the way to being kaput. I guess it's had a lot of stick. My techie advisor was shocked when he saw it. 'You must do a lot of typing!' he cried, when he saw that the a, e, and s keys have worn to invisibility. Ironically, it's all forced me to take my own advice  to ration my social networking activity (advice I doled out in April on the Salt London Book Fair Panel on Social Networking, and in the new edition of the Creative Writing companion, The Road to Somewhere [Palgrave Macmillan]), with the result that in spite of other distractions I've been able to concentrate on writing more than I have for a good while.

There's a popular notion that short stories are the mode for our rushed sound-bitey times, but personally, I take the opposite view: a worthwhile short story is something distilled that requires stillness, both to read and to write. Over the past few years, while I've been spending a lot of time online, I really haven't found the right stillness for short-story writing, but this year thankfully I have found it again at last. I wrote several, now published or about to be. One short-story highlight in the latter part of the year was of course the publication of Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes (Unthank Books), for which my story 'That Turbulent Stillness' was commissioned, and our editor A (Andrea) J Ashworth organised great reading events, two of which I took part in, in Manchester and Blackburn. (Three of us - Andrea, fellow contributor Bill Broady and me - will be doing a signing at York Waterstone's on Saturday 18th January [12 am - 3 pm] ). In late summer-early autumn I managed a novella in nine-and-a-half short weeks (sitting up in bed at the back of  a mountainside cottage in Wales where the internet was inaccessible on the dongle!). I have also finally had the peace to come to realise that the longer novel I've been struggling for ages - years now - to make more acceptably commercial is never going to work unless I damn well write it the way it needs to be written, and hang the consequences in terms of anything but artistic integrity!

A peaceful and successful 2014 to you all!

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